Did DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg Really Call Medical Marijuana A Joke?

By McCarton Ackerman 11/06/15

At least he's not as bad as Michele Leonhart. Or is he?

Chuck Rosenberg
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DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg is taking a one step forward, two steps back approach when it comes to marijuana. After finally acknowledging this year that heroin is more dangerous than pot, DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg referred to medical marijuana as a “joke.”

Speaking during a briefing with reporters, Rosenberg insisted that there are no medical benefits to smoking marijuana. His remarks come on the heels of the DEA releasing its annual National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, which shows that use of marijuana and every type of illicit drug except for cocaine has increased.

"We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don't call it medicine—that is a joke,” said Rosenberg. "There are pieces of marijuana—extracts or constituents or component parts—that have great promise medicinally. But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana—which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana—it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine."

But while Rosenberg is unexpectedly against the legalization of marijuana in any form, he did insist that voters should be able to decide on the issue because, “there is other stuff in our society that is dangerous and is perfectly legal.”

Last August, Rosenberg begrudgingly went on record and stated that “heroin is clearly more dangerous than marijuana.” He said the previous week that pot was only “probably” more dangerous than heroin and insisted that he “wasn’t an expert.” Rosenberg also confirmed that the DEA does not currently have plans to remove marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse with no accepted medical benefits.

Twenty-three states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, while four states and the District of Columbia have legalized it for recreational use. Recreational marijuana is also currently on the ballot in five other states.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.